10 Things to Know About Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner Jobs

When the job market in your field more than quadruples over the course of 20 years, you can bet that the opportunities for short-term and part-time assignments will also expand. Such is the case with nurse practitioner jobs, and specifically locum tenens nurse practitioners (NPs).

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that there were approximately 63,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) working across the country in 1991; as of January 2019, that number had reached over 270,000. Additionally, AANP estimates that the number of patient visits to nurse practitioners now exceeds 1.06 billion annually.

Recent trends also point to continued growth for locum NP jobs across a number of disciplines, according to Bronwyn Jefferson, an advanced practice recruiting consultant for Staff Care, a leading locum tenens staffing agency.

“Nurse practitioners, including those working locum tenens, are a growing specialty in part due to the physician shortage,” reported Jefferson, who has served on the advanced practice team for more than five years.

“NPs are seeing more patients every year, and they are diagnosing and prescribing, especially as more states continue to adopt independent practice standards,” she continued. “From a cost perspective, they are also more affordable for a facility’s temporary staffing needs.”

The growth in locum NP opportunities

Prior to 2012, Staff Care received minimal requests for advanced practitioners to work locum assignments. In their 2012 annual review of temporary staffing trends, only 12.4 percent of healthcare facility managers reported they had used locum tenens NPs and physician assistants (PAs) in the previous 12 months.

Just five years later, in the 2017 Review, that amount had doubled—with 26 percent of healthcare managers reporting they had used locum tenens NPs and PAs. And the use of locum nurse practitioners has continued to expand.

Staff Care currently maintains a recruitment team of more than 15 professionals who specialize in advanced practice assignments, including locum jobs for NPs, PAs, CRNAs and others.  

10 key things to know about locum NP jobs:

1. The hot spots for locum tenens NP assignments

A few years ago, the most demand for locum nurse practitioners was on the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest, according to Jefferson. While these areas continue to hire a lot of locum NPs, her team has noted that the demand is now spread more evenly across the country.

Today, the need is often greater in rural areas, including critical access facilities, where many locum NPs enjoy serving the underserved. This follows a larger trend, according to a 2018 report from the University of Michigan that found NPs are more likely to practice in areas of higher need than physicians or physician assistants.

FIND locum NP jobs across the U.S. 

2. The locum NP specialties experiencing the greatest demand 

Primary care and behavioral health show the most consistent demand for locum NPs, with the latter experiencing the biggest growth in recent years, according to Jefferson. She noted, “Psychiatric NPs can now choose from a wide range of locum tenens opportunities, with children, adolescents and/or adult patients.”

Yet locum tenens NP jobs can be found across a wide spectrum of specialties and settings, from specialized inpatient units to emergency departments, urgent care, specialty practices and clinics, and other outpatient settings. Locum nurse practitioners can also be found in surgical centers, correctional settings, rehabilitation facilities, home health, and more.

3. Demand for specific jobs and schedules can fluctuate

Nurse practitioners can choose from either full-time or part-time locum jobs, including some short-term local work, although most of Staff Care’s current availability is for full-time and ongoing assignments, reported Jefferson.

The availability of locum tenens NP jobs can also fluctuate depending on the time of year. The peak demand generally occurs in the summer and early fall, due to facilities’ needs for vacation coverage, additional staffing during flu season and other factors. 

4. Flexibility and mobility are key for traveling NPs

“In many cases, we are looking for providers who we can license and travel to another state,” said Jefferson. “We will pay for their licensing and take care of all of their credentialing. And the more flexible they are on location, the more likely they can be placed quickly.”

She added that NPs who hold a multi-state RN license in one of the Nurse Licensure Compact states and want to work in another compact state will find an expedited path to working across state lines.

5. The typical length of a locum tenens NP assignment 

Though contracts will vary depending on the needs of the hiring facility, the most common assignment length for locum NPs is three months, with an option to extend the contract, said Jefferson. 

“From time to time, we do get six-month contracts; this is more common in psychiatry. But in primary care and other outpatient settings it will usually be the three-month contract, with option to extend,” she said. 

6. The expected NP salary, housing and benefits for locum jobs

Locum tenens nurse practitioners can expect a competitive hourly pay rate plus travel and lodging expenses paid by their locum tenens agency; many agencies also provide malpractice insurance and free CME units. Locums can have their housing and travel arranged by the company’s in-house travel team, or make their own arrangements.

“A lot of our locums like the freedom to choose for themselves, and will opt for the generous monthly travel stipend,” said Jefferson. 

7. How much experience is needed before working locum tenens

“As a minimum, I would definitely recommend at least a year of experience working as an NP before applying for a locum assignment. Facilities want someone who can hit the ground running,” explained Jefferson. “Sometimes we will have opportunities for new graduates, but they tend to be for doing in-home risk assessments and physicals.” 

8. Professional tax or financial guidance can help

Nurse practitioners and other clinicians considering locum tenens work may want to consult with their tax preparer or another financial expert familiar with independent contractor arrangements, taxable vs. nontaxable reimbursements, and the taxation laws in multiple states. Locum recruiters should not be giving any tax advice.

9. How long it takes to get started as a locum tenens NP

The timeline to start a locum assignment depends on the provider’s readiness, state requirements and current demand. “For instance, an NP who is looking for a quick start in a state that doesn’t have a lot of jobs in their specialty may not be realistic, but it can be possible if they are willing to get a license somewhere else,” Jefferson pointed out.

“If a locum candidate has their state license and everything ready to go, he or she could potentially get started that next week in primary care. In outpatient settings, NP candidates can often start within four weeks; inpatient assignment starts will generally take 45 to 90 days,” she added.

10. Locum agencies can handle licensing, credentialing and more

“What’s great about Staff Care is that we have a tendered team with experience, we know the NP market, we have an in-house licensing team, and we can walk you through the process,” explained Jefferson. “We will send everything off to the state licensing board, request verifications, and may proactively license you for locum assignments, paying the state fees. And candidates do not pay any fees for our placement services.”

Jefferson encourages anyone considering locum work to simply contact a recruiter: “We are available to answer any questions before you get started.”

Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner Salaries 
How Nurse Practitioners Are Filling the Gaps in Healthcare 

STAFF CARE matches physicians and advanced practitioners with rewarding locum tenens jobs across the U.S.  


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